Japan readies anti-missile defence for N Korea rocket

File photo of North Korean rocket launch from April 2009 The last time North Korea launched a rocket-mounted satellite, the UN imposed sanctions

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Japan has ordered missile defence systems to be prepared in response to the planned launch of a North Korean long-range rocket next month, Japanese Defence Minister Naoki Tanaka has said.

Reports said the defence systems would be deployed near the island of Okinawa to shoot down the rocket should it threaten Japanese territory.

North Korea says the rocket will put a satellite into orbit.

But the US and its allies believe the launch is a pretext for a missile test.

'Grave provocation'

Pyongyang said last week it was to mark the 100th birthday of its late Great Leader Kim Il-sung with the launch.

The announcement drew widespread criticism that the launch would violate UN Security Council resolutions.


News of this satellite launch - coming just weeks after North Korea had promised the US it would suspend missile tests - has led to a lot of head-scratching in the region.

The announcement was full of assurances that the country would abide by international regulations for space technology, and avoid rocket parts landing in neighbouring countries.

But Pyongyang knows that both the UN and the US take a dim view of "peaceful" launches like this - seeing them as a cover for long-range missile tests, banned under UN Security Council resolutions.

Some see the satellite launch as evidence that parts of the North Korean establishment are less than comfortable with the US deal - under which the Pyongyang suspended uranium enrichment in return for food aid. They want to reassert the country's military strength and political independence.

Others see it as further evidence than Kim Jong-un is playing the same cat-and-mouse game his father was accused of - using provocations to elicit greater bargaining power with the US and others.

And North Korea is also having to bear in mind its domestic audience. 2012 has been billed as a year of celebration - the centenary of its founding president's birth, and the moment North Korea will mark its emergency as a "strong and prosperous nation". The satellite launch may deliver the much-desired image of strength, but it risks losing the American food aid it desperately needs to mimic even minimal prosperity.

The resolutions were imposed after a similar launch in April 2009. Japan is particularly concerned as the last North Korean rocket was launched over the country.

"I have ordered officials to prepare to deploy the PAC-3 and Aegis warships," Mr Tanaka said.

The Japanese parliament also passed a resolution condemning the launch.

South Korea, China and the US have also expressed concern over the planned launch.

"It would be a grave provocation threatening the peace and security of the Korean peninsula and north-east Asia," the South Korean foreign ministry said in a statement.

Nuclear envoys from South Korea and Japan held talks in Seoul to work out how they would respond if the launch were to go ahead, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported.

Meanwhile, Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua said Deputy Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun met Pyongyang's ambassador to express Beijing's "worry".

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called North Korea's announcement "highly provocative".

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said any launch could discourage aid donors.

"Such an act would undermine recent positive diplomatic progress and, in its effect on international donors, would likely worsen the humanitarian situation inside the country," he said in a speech in Singapore.

Satellite view of North Korean missile launch site at Musudan-Ri (file photo from 2009/Digital Globe) North Korea used its launch site at Musudan-Ri for the 2009 rocket launch
'Peaceful purposes'

Last month, Pyongyang agreed to suspend long-range missile tests as part of a deal for the United States to supply 240,000 tonnes of food aid to North Korea.

It also agreed to suspend uranium enrichment and to allow back UN weapons inspectors as part of the deal.

A US state department spokesperson said it would be "hard to imagine" giving food aid to North Korea, as previously agreed, if Pyongyang went ahead with the rocket launch.

In the launch three years ago, Pyongyang said the satellite made it into orbit and characterised it as a test of its satellite technology.

The move drew condemnation from the US and South Korea and led to the UN resolutions prohibiting the North from nuclear and ballistic missile activity.

Foreign officials said there were no indications that a satellite had reached space and that the launch was a cover for Pyongyang to test long-range missile technology.

North Korea said last week that the launch of a rocket carrying a satellite would take place between 12 and 16 April.

The ''working satellite'', the Kwangmyongsong-3, is an opportunity for ''putting the country's technology of space use for peaceful purposes on a higher stage'', said a North Korean spokesman.

The rocket would be launched from the Solace Satellite Launching Station in Cholsan county, North Pyongyang province on the country's west coast.

State media also reported that the North has already launched two experimental satellites.

Graphic showing North Korea missile ranges

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  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    Shouldn't western policy towards N Korea at least take into account that :

    - following change of leader there is a tug of war between the relative hawks and doves. Policy should be actions that give the doves the upper hand !

    - all govts but particularly Asian value saving face. Diplomacy where they are treated as being equals at the top table should go a long way ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    I am not a NK supportor of any kind.
    I think that NK should stop these missile test and develop in its economy and it's people

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    Over 200,000 dead from the atom bombs, not counting deaths caused from the side effects of radiation, I think that says 'sorry'!

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.


    Nice sentiment but completely unrealistic if you understand human nature, yes it is right to not punish the son for the sins of the father, but in practice this rarely happens.

    97.Total Mass Retain
    I don't think its doing a disservice to point out that Japan has a somewhat distasteful recent past... many countries do

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    #100. Try saying 'We're sorry'. I have never once heard an actual apology. We regret is not the same thing. Compare what Japan teaches it kids in school to what the Germans teach theirs about the holocaust.

    Incidentally bombing cities only became a war crime in 1948. Hiroshima would be a crime now but wasn't in '45.

    Seeing as the mods are deleting all posts this thread seems dead now

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    #98 When you put it so eloquently...all I will say is this; Japan has sought redemption for it's war crimes and is still seeking that redemption, she tries to repent, the USA has not repented for the nuclear crime, in so far as I am aware, in fact it was never considered a war crime since the USA won. Anyway, shall we get back to the original topic or do you wish to continue arguing history?

  • Comment number 99.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 98.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    93. Peter_Sym

    You come over as holding a grudge against Japan and not prepared to give it credit for the peace since 1945. Even before 1945, in the early period upto the 1920s it was doing little more than western imperial powers were doing and in its war with Russia doing what Britain was doing at the time and ensuring it was protected its own backyard.

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    "It it the US and it's powerful arms lobby which are provoking tensions in the region" {Far East]

    Well, if you listen to Australians, Japanese, Philippinos and even Vietnamese- it's fast-arming Communist China which treatens peace in the region; particularly by encroching on territorial waters and economic zones of other countries.

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    #93 Aye I glossed over the wars, reason being that what is the past is the past, theres no sense in dwelling on it, learn from it by all means, but what Japan did then should not be how we judge what they do now, as for the nukes, THAT was an atrocity far greater than any that anyone else had ever committed to that date by a democratic nation.

  • Comment number 94.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    #92 I'm certainly giving 110% support for Japan defending itself from potential missile threats but your post does seem to gloss over the period from 1905-1945 when Japan invaded pretty much every nation in Asia, parts of Russia, bombed Australia and even just about made it into India!

    Its rather like saying 'apart from Hiroshima and Nagasaki the US has never nuked anyone'!

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    You can say that Japan pursues a military agenda....but what many seem to forget, or simply don't know, is that the Russo-Japanese war in 1905 had Japan on the defending side while Japan gave up it's right to declare war after WW2, for over 60 years, Japan has pursued peace, they are merely doing so now; with potential missile threats, can you blame them?

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    Every country has a sovereignty and no one can interfere the decision of any country. However, N Korea case is different. Firstly, there is a high tension between it and its neighborhood. Secondly, it has a very weak economy which depend on foreign aid. Meanwhile, i hope the autocratic leaders will understand the demand of their people,

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    Whatever flag you live under, never put anyone in charge who thinks bullying, arrogant swaggering, fighting, religion, bigotry or subjugation of any of the population is a way to run a government. There aren't many places where they've got it right, including here in the UK

  • Comment number 89.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 88.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.


    Most North Koreans are actually aware now of the better quality of life of South Koreans. What NK propoganda states though is that this has come at the cost of the North by aggression and US imperialism.


    Yeah right! And we'd all become millionaires..

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    My answer BTW would be total isolation from the West."

    Can't quite explain it as the N Koreans should be able to pick up SK TV channels like the East Germans could from the West. I suspect it was China becoming the dominant power in the east as the USSR collapsed and it has not had the benign influence that the Western powers had on the European communist states to reform.


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